The British movie Educating Rita, in which Michael Caine plays a benevolent but alcoholic college tutor, was filmed in Dublin’s Trinity College. The movie’s hero, played by Julie Walters, is a working-class girl who struggles to marry her working-class background with her sumptuous new academic surroundings. Dublin’s Trinity College, with its splendid Georgian architecture and luscious green gardens provided the perfect backdrop for the film’s major theme: the contrast between gritty working-class life in back-to-back housing, with the privileged lives, lawns and buildings of academic exclusivity.
For many centuries after it was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, the college was an island of academic pursuit and debate set apart from the tougher realities of Dublin life, and set behind huge walls and gates. Now, however, Trinity College is a source of great opportunity for gifted students from every background in Ireland. And more importantly, for readers of this website, the college serves a dual purpose as a major tourist attraction for visitors from around the globe.
Outside Trinity College
Trinity College is best entered through the West entrance approaching from College Green. You should take note of the west elevation, in front of which is a lawn upon which stand statues of Edmund Burke and Oliver Goldsmith. The entrance building, which was constructed from 1752, is a stunning many-windowed Georgian building that stretches for almost 300 feet. The lawn outside Trinity is surrounded by iron railings which are bisected by a path. On either side, the green is broken up by the proud statues of Burke and Goldsmith – an Irish writer and an Irish statesman.
The path up to Trinity College leads to impressive old oak doors – these were damaged in a car accident in 2014 but remain a suitably grand entrance piece. Having passed through the arched gateway you will see Parliament Square – this area is made into a court by the 18th Century buildings that surround it.
Dining Hall and Chapel
The northern side of the courtyard (to your left as you enter) is made up of the Chapel and Dining Hall. The Chapel is notable as the only one in the Republic of Ireland to be shared by all Christian denominations. On from the Chapel is the Dining Hall – an enormous room of timber with coved ceiling and two notable old fireplaces among many other delights.
When you exit the Dining Hall, directly opposite you will see an exit from the courtyard into another part of the college. Follow the path towards this exit, and on the lawn to your left you will see two wonderful statues. The larger of the two is a bell-tower, built in 1853, entitled The Campanile – this is one of Trinity College’s most iconic structures. Just behind The Campanile is a 1969 sculpture, by Irishman Henry Moore, entitled ‘Reclining Connected Forms’ – this is an unusual sculpture that looks like a baby in the womb, but speaks about the relationship between mother and child.
Libraries, Fellows Square and the Douglas Hyde Gallery
Continue following the path and you will find yourself at the passage between Parliament Square and Fellows Square. Walk past the Hall of Honour and the 1936 Reading Room and you will again see a green law, surrounded by beautiful architecture. Turn to the left and you will be greeted by Trinity College’s most stellar attraction: the Old Library.
The Old library is a series of chambers that holds over 200,000 antiquarian texts, the most famous of which are the Book of Kells, and the Book of Durrow. Both of these stunning texts are held in cases in the long room. Up to the 1950s, the Book of Kells was not enclosed in a glass case but rather laid on a desk in a corner of the Long Room, with a page turned each day – it’s only protection was a couple of burly security officers.
Between the Old Library and the Arts & Social Building is Fellows Square. There is a sculpture on Fellows Square called ‘Sphere Within Sphere’ – this striking work created by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro is one of 14 identical versions of the sculpture that appear outside important buildings around the globe. The Dublin version of Sphere Within Sphere appears outside the Berkeley Library; itself a 1967 piece of architecture that blends serenely into its old and illustrious surroundings. Behind and to the west of the Berkeley Library are a variety of other beautiful buildings and some grassland called College Park. You can also find the Samuel Beckett Theatre in this section of the college.
Walk back towards the passage between Fellows Square and Parliament Square, turn left, and you will find yourself outside Examination Hall. Further on you will see a passageway to your left. This passageway leads to the Provost’s House – one of Trinity’s stellar attractions.
The Provost is the senior academic administrator who has traditionally been housed in this beautiful building. Provost’s House, with its stunning interior and exterior, has none of the traditional austerity associated with academia. It appears palatial, and reflects the high esteem Trinity College has been held in by Ireland’s leadership since its construction in 1759.
From the Provost’s House one can either return to College Green by passing through the passageway and onto the main entrance, or exit onto the corner of Nassau Street and Grafton Street.